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I-A VOLLEYBALL: Reloaded Crusaders storm to region crown

Faith Lutheran’s girls volleyball team had to replace three starters, including two all-state players, from last season’s state championship team.

One would never know the way the Crusaders are playing.

Junior Bobbi Tharaldson had nine kills, eight aces and eight digs Friday to lead the Crusaders to a 25-19, 25-22, 25-10 sweep of Sierra Vista in the Division I-A Southern Region championship at Sunrise Mountain. It’s Faith Lutheran’s third consecutive region title. Both teams advance to next week’s state tournament in Reno.

“I really liked our intensity tonight and our work ethic,” Crusaders coach Amy Fisher said. “I felt that we really worked hard. It’s probably the match that we’ve worked the hardest all year. Our kids were ready to go. They were expecting a four- or five-game match tonight. They were not taking them lightly. They respect them a great deal.”

In the first set, Tharaldson set the tone by scoring the team’s first three points. She had two kills and an ace, while helping the Crusaders (26-13) storm out to a 5-0 start. The Mountain Lions briefly recovered by knotting it up at 18-18, but Tharaldson’s six kills in the set proved to be too much.

“Bobbi Tharaldson had her best match of the season so far,” Fisher said. “She just did an excellent job of serving, hitting and (playing) defense. Just all-around. The kid was on.”

In the second set, which had 10 ties and six lead changes, Fisher called a timeout with the Crusaders trailing 22-20. Her team quickly recovered for a 5-0 run to take the set, which was capped by a serving ace from Tharaldson. No team held a lead larger than three points in the set.

“The timeouts that I choose are to break momentum on the other side, to put more pressure on their server and to break their focus,” Fisher said. “Young players, even my kids do it, get frustrated with them. That’s my goal, to disrupt the server and get a quick sideout.”

With the Mountain Lions (21-10) clearly deflated from the previous set, the Crusaders easily took the third after taking a 7-0 start and serving five aces.

Cayla Nikodemus finished with 10 kills and six digs, and Megan Kronschnabel added 33 assists and 10 digs for the Crusaders, who got seven kills from Jordyn Dunseath.

Faith Lutheran has beaten the Mountain Lions four times this season. Both teams could meet again in the state tournament.

“They’re a great team,” Fisher said. “They’ve been our best competition in conference. It’s always competitive. The kids know how to play volleyball, they understand the game, they know where the open spots are. It’s always fun to play them. I think they’re going to be pretty successful up at state.”

Bridgette Levi had 11 kills and 10 digs for Sierra Vista, and Bailey Bergquist added eight kills, two blocks and five digs. Teammate Kira Felise notched 23 assists, 13 digs and two kills, and Sydney Land had seven kills and two blocks for the Mountain Lions.

The Crusaders will be looking for their second consecutive state championship.

“They’ve had their sight set on that second state championship, and we’re one step closer,” Fisher said. “I’m really excited for them and very proud of my kids.”

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